Comic Review: House of X/Powers of X

Published: June 24th, 2019 – October 9th, 2019
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Pepe Larraz

Marvel Comics, 400 Pages

Review:

Let me preface this review by saying that this is the best new comic book story that I have read in ten years.

That’s absolutely a bold statement but let’s be honest, Marvel and DC haven’t really been bringing their A game for awhile, other than a few things, here and there.

Overall, modern comics just aren’t great anymore. But this is in a league of its own, as Sean Gordon Murphy’s recent Batman work at DC Comics is also on its own plane of existence when compared to what else is coming out from its publisher the last few years.

That being said, it’s been a really long time since I’ve been engaged by X-Men stories. That’s kind of depressing, as the X-Men pocket of the larger Marvel universe is one of my favorite franchises of all-time.

Jonathan Hickman has made me care again.

In fact, this made me care so much that I added every new X-comic to my pull list, as I am hoping that this carries over into something larger, richer and more spectacular. This sort of prologue to the larger X-universe is going to be a hard thing to beat or live up to over the long haul but it’s obvious that Hickman has a plan and I want to see how this all unfolds.

There are some things in this story that seem weird and out of place and I believe that these things are intentional. Primarily, many of the characters are acting uncharacteristic. I don’t think it’s an oversight or the product of a writer that doesn’t know what he’s actually writing about, as many modern writers seem to do.

If I’m wrong, I’ll be pissed and heartbroken but there is real intelligence to this writing and Hickman has a fantastic track record.

Also, this is a great jumping on point. You don’t really need to read what happens before. This is a true starting point for new readers or old readers that tapped out on the X-Men books long ago.

Plus, Pepe Larraz’s art is some of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: old school X-Men mega crossover events.

Comic Review: The New Mutants: War Children – One-Shot

Published: September 25th, 2019
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz

Marvel Comics, 32 Pages

Review:

Being an old school fan of The New Mutants, this was a pretty cool one-shot that took my brain right down memory lane in the best way possible.

This re-teams the creative duo of Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, who were the guys that gave us so many New Mutants stories from their original run.

The story here fits well with their work from thirty years ago. I’m not sure where this would fit, as I don’t remember the details from issue to issue but this is in that great period between the debut of Magik and her eventual (but not permanent) death in the Inferno mega crossover event. This certainly takes place well before Rob Liefeld came in and changed the direction of the title, evolving it into X-Force.

I’m assuming that this was made because The New Mutants are being relaunched in a few weeks on the heels of Jonathan Hickman’s pretty beloved House of X and Powers of X miniseries.

And while I look forward to the new New Mutants comic series, I’d rather just have more of this. I wish that this wasn’t a one-shot and could have been expanded into a miniseries. But the quality of this would have been difficult to pull off in multiple issues on a schedule.

Sienkiewicz’s art has never really fallen off. He’s not a guy that’s been phoning it in later in his career like some of the other greats have done. This is a stunning and beautiful book to look at. Additionally, I thought that Claremont penned a good story that was a throwback to his glory days writing multiple X-comics.

I don’t want to say too much regarding the plot, as I’d rather people pick this up but it mostly revolves around Warlock and Cypher and the fear that Warlock has about losing himself to his nature and hurting his friends.

Old school New Mutants fans will probably dig the shit out of this. I did. And as I said, I just wish there was more.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the original New Mutants comic book run.

Comic Review: 1985

Published: July 22nd, 2009
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Tommy Lee Edwards

Marvel Comics, 146 Pages

Review:

This comic book was cool as hell!

It sort of reads like it’s a season of Stranger Things but where the small town is haunted by Marvel villains instead of weird shit from the Upsidedown. This also came out in the decade before Stranger Things, so it was kind of ahead of the curve but like Stranger Things, knew how to tap into ’80s nostalgia in a brilliant way.

But this was also written by Mark Millar, a true master of his craft.

What’s unique and cool about this comic is that it doesn’t take place in the Marvel Universe, it takes place in our universe.

The story follows a young boy in 1985. He is having issues like any normal ’80s kid dealing with divorced parents. He bonds with his father pretty strongly though, as they both have a deep love of comic books and are experts on Marvel lore. At the same time, Marvel villains start showing up in the real world because there are no heroes here to stop them.

Overall, this was a really neat idea and for the most part, I thought it was superbly executed.

1985 is incredibly imaginative but it really worked so well because the art fit the concept and the tone. While Millar deserves credit for a great story, Tommy Lee Edwards gave it so much more life than just words on paper. And his style works better for the setting than having that sort of standard Marvel art style.

This is one of those comics that I’m happy to have discovered as an adult but wish would have been around when I was a kid. If you know a kid that loves Marvel but they’ve never read this, I think that they’ll probably love the hell out of it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the Stranger Things comics, as well as other Mark Millar stories.

Comic Review: Battle Maiden Knuckle Bomb

Published: September, 2019
Written by: Keung Lee
Art by: Keung Lee

Murakumo Comics, 64 Pages

Review:

I first came across this crowdfunded comic when Keung Lee was introduced on an episode of Ethan Van Sciver’s Comicsgate Live YouTube show. Being a fan of the manga style, as well as tokusatsu, this definitely peaked my interest.

I didn’t back it initially, however, but I kept my eye on it for quite some time. After more art came out and Keung Lee spent more time on other people’s livestreams talking about the project, I finally decided to back it a few months after the campaign launched.

Battle Maiden Knuckle Bomb is described as manga and tokusatsu presented in the reading style western audiences prefer. It absolutely works and I dig the hell out of Lee’s art style. Everything is so polished and nice to look at.

Beyond that, this also has a sort of cyberpunk superhero feel to it. While it’s not quite as futuristic and dystopian feeling as Akira, Battle Angel Alita or Ghost In the Shell, it certainly channels those franchises in a subtle way. At least, I see similar tropes and tones. Although, this is more lighthearted and taps more into the teen manga style than those darker, more serious books.

This is the first part of a larger story arc. So this serves as the introduction to what will be a bigger world and a bigger tale. It does a good job getting you invested in the characters and their unique world. After finishing this, I wished there was already a second volume to delve into. I guess we’ll have to wait some time for that but I’m pretty sure I’ll also back the follow up.

Out of all the recent crowdfunded comics, this is certainly in the upper echelon for me. It’s got beautiful art, a cool style and it makes you care about the story you’re reading.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: future comics by Keung Lee, as well as other comics under the Murakumo imprint.

Comic Review: Detective Comics, Vol. 3: League of Shadows

Published: October 10th, 2017
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Fernando Blanco, Christian Duce, Marcio Takara

DC Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

This was a better volume in James Tynion’s Detective Comics run than the previous one. However, it’s really overcrowded with characters that mostly don’t connect for me.

I’m sorry but no matter how hard DC tries to push Orphan and Batwing, they’re just not that great. I don’t even really like Azrael that much, despite his popularity amongst many. And now that Spoiler is gone, I really only give a shit about Batman and Clayface.

In fact, Clayface is the most interesting character in these stories but he doesn’t get enough focus. I hope that changes, as I work my way towards the end of Tynion’s run.

This story is kind of a generic League of Shadows tale where Shiva is in charge and trying to screw with Gotham. Ra’s al Ghul does show up and his appearance severely effects Orphan but this all felt pretty forgettable.

I feel like this should’ve dealt more with the fallout after losing Spoiler and the death of Red Robin but it’s more focused on Oprhan’s mommy issues and Batwoman’s daddy issues.

All that being said, the art is f’n great!

Ultimately, I like Tynion but his Detective Comics run is pretty meh, if I’m being honest.

But I’m also a person that prefers Batman working alone or with just one or two people, preferably a Robin or Batgirl.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.

Comic Review: Cyberfrog: Bloodhoney

Published: September, 2019
Written by: Ethan Van Sciver
Art by: Ethan Van Sciver, Kyle Ritter

All Caps Comics, 80 Pages

Review:

There was about a ten year period where I checked out of comics from the late ’90s until the late ’00s. But what brought me back was the artwork of the era and primarily, the work of Ethan Van Sciver on Green Lantern. At the time, I didn’t know who Ethan was, I was just captivated by his detail, as well as the colors of those books.

It wasn’t until later that I learned more about him and sought out a lot more of his work and frankly, I always found it breathtaking and it’s kind of responsible for re-igniting my love for the comic book medium.

So when I had heard that Van Sciver was leaving DC due to some bullshit involving politics and comic industry insanity, I wanted to follow him into whatever his next big endeavor would be.

Cyberfrog: Bloodhoney is the first part of a four-part story arc. Also, it resurrects a character that Ethan created while at Harris Comics in the ’90s. Initially, I wasn’t a huge fan of the concept but the art that he showed, leading up to the launch of his campaign was all high quality stuff and some of his best work. So I got in on his crowdfunding campaign fairly early.

It was a hell of a waiting game, however, as this was two months shy of being a year late. While that was frustrating, once I got the book in my hand, all that sort of vanished and I was just ecstatic to have it and to finally be able to read it.

What I saw, page after page, was an exceptional work of art. This was, visually, the greatest thing that Ethan Van Sciver has ever done. Seeing the incredible detail on every single page makes me realize that this needed a lot more time than Ethan initially planned for. Plus, the book doubled in size since it was first announced. That doesn’t excuse it being as late as it was but I hope Ethan has learned from this process and will give us more accurate dates on his future campaigns.

This wasn’t just Ethan’s baby though, as a lot of the credit has to go to colorist Kyle Ritter. While Ethan is a top notch illustrator, Ritter’s colors truly take this to another level. Ritter is absolutely a top talent in the comic book industry beyond just his color work. But I’m so glad that he got this gig, was able to show the world what he was capable of and I’m looking forward to his upcoming StarBlades comic.

As far as the story goes, Ethan also wrote this. However, that’s the one aspect of this project where I had some reservations. Not because I didn’t think he could do it but because he doesn’t have much experience as an actual comic book writer. However, working with a guy like Geoff Johns for as long as he did, he probably picked some things up.

While I can’t say that this is as good of a story as the Green Lantern books that Ethan worked on, this is still a better written comic book than what has become the industry standard in 2019. Ethan very clearly has a vision for these characters and where he wants to take them and it all just comes together and works magnificently.

Although, I’ve heard some people complain a bit about the book’s structure and how it’s third act just kind of ends in the middle of the story. I had no problem with this whatsoever, as it seemed to end in a natural place for a story that is going to have three more installments. I won’t spoil how this ends but it is satisfying, after what the first act in this issue laid out for us.

Ultimately, this was pretty fantastic. Ethan Van Sciver made a damn good comic book and even if the concept itself didn’t grab me, after experiencing it, I’m now invested and looking forward to the rest of the story. That means that this did its job and it actually exceeded my expectations.

Also, I didn’t give a shit about the chromium cover but after seeing it, the cover looks absolutely incredible.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Ethan’s Green Lantern and Flash stuff, as well as the original Cyberfrog run at Harris Comics.

Comic Review: Punchline: Blood Sisters

Published: August 14th, 2019
Written by: Bill Williams
Art by: Brian Denham, Matthew Weldon, Tiago Barsa, Neeraj Menon

Antarctic Press, 124 Pages

Review:

This was a comic book that I backed on Indiegogo last year. I was mainly looking forward to it because the price wasn’t too high and the art looked fantastic just from the sample images I saw.

I was glad to finally get it, even though I was able to read the first issue collected in this trade paperback, as it was released back in May for Free Comic Book Day.

For the most part, I was pretty happy with Punchline. I’ll probably end up checking out whatever follows this story arc.

Ultimately though, this is the intro to what I’m assuming is an ongoing series or at least a comic with future miniseries or trades. That being said, a lot happens in this but because of that, the plot progression feels rushed at times.

Some things happen too fast without a proper build or added context. The teen girl who becomes a superhero seems way too eager and quick to jump into this lifestyle, especially after she has reservations over just about everything that happens once she gets her powers.

Her reservations are legitimate, as the plot moves along but I feel like she was quickly thrown into the role to get the story moving. I feel like we should’ve known more about her, her drive, her motivation, her backstory, etc. We learn about her brother’s death and it becomes an integral plot point but when it comes up, it’s just sort of thrown into the mix. But it’s hard to emotionally connect to what the hero is going through because it seemed like a random curveball.

Still, this was a good read. I especially loved the art and the character design. I’d like to see how this world develops over time.

Being that this is the first arc, it is a decent start to a series but it just needs a bit more fine tuning in regards to pacing and when and how to reveal specific plot details.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent female-led crowdfunded comics I’ve read like Blue Mamba and Flying Sparks.